Playing a team that has won more matches than you have played total this season is a difficult proposition and Hutsonville-Palestine's volleyball team found that out the hard way Monday night (Oct. 30).
The Lady Tigers ran into a buzzsaw in the form of Windsor-Stewardson-Strasburg and came out on the wrong end of a 10-25, 13-25 decision in the semifinals of the IHSA Class 1A Stewardson-Strasburg Sectional.
"Windsor-Stew-Stras is an excellent team," HHS-PHS head coach Shandy Matthews said. "Those girls could play volleyball and pound the ball. They are the best team we've seen all year. I thought the girls played well against a team that good."
Hutsonville-Palestine scored the first point of the match, but that was the only lead the Lady Tigers would hold the entire match.
Windsor-Stewardson-Strasburg scored three straight points to take the lead for good (3-1), then continued to stretch it out throughout the remainder of the set. A 10-4 run made the score 13-5, then a 9-1 burst later in the set made the score 24-9 before the teams traded points to end the set.
The second set was more of the same. Hutsonville-Palestine tied the score at 2-2 and 3-3, but a three-point run gave WSS the lead for good at 6-3.
After Hutsonville-Palestine scored to make the score 4-6, WSS scored five of the next six points to push their lead to 11-5. That was the start of an 11-3 run for WSS, helping them extend their advantage to 17-7. The margin grew as big as 13 down the stretch, while Hutsonville-Palestine clawed back to within 13-23 before WSS scored the final two points to win the set and the match.
"The girls played better than the scores reflected, but we just couldn't get in a groove and our hitter didn't hit much," Matthews said. "But, I'm very proud of the girls for hanging in there."
Mandi Alspach led Hutsonville-Palestine with one point on three good serves, along with five blocks with one stuff and three spikes, while Ashlyn Matthews posted 10 spikes with four kills and three good serves. Ashley Lowrance netted three points on four good serves, Marah Matthews totaled one point on six good serves with one ace and 32 good sets, Paige Poorman contributed four good serves and two spikes and Macy Biggs added four spikes and two good serves.
The win was the 30th of the season for Windsor-Stewardson-Strasburg (30-6), who will now play Louisville-North Clay - a 25-16, 25-9 winner over Okaw Valley in Monday's first semifinal - in the championship match of the Class 1A Stewardson-Strasburg Sectional Wednesday at 6 p.m.
Hutsonville-Palestine ended its season with a 15-8 record.
"The girls had a winning season and won regionals, which was awesome," Matthews said. "Now it's time to rest a little and get ready for next season and improve."